Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bugger n.1

[SE bugger, a sodomite; a trans. of 14C Fr. bougre, ult. Lat. Bulgarus, a Bulgarian, a name given to a sect of heretics who came from Bulgaria in the 11C. The term was transferred to the Albigensian heretics, who it was believed were largely homosexual. Despite appearances, the term remains SE, although the OED, c.1900, states that ‘in decent use only as a legal term’. Its verbal and comb. uses are, however, sl., as are the n. uses cited here]

1. (also b, bogger) a person, usu. a man, a ‘bloke’; esp. as silly bugger, daft bugger etc, none of which is necessarily pej.

[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy I 161: These Bougers drink and whore, / And riot on each small Occasion.
[UK]T. Sheridan Brave Irishman I ii: Do you mean to front me, you French boogre? – Eh.
[UK]Banquet of Wit 58: Monf. de Vergy [...] hearing a woman call out ‘fresh butter,’ drew his sword, thinking she called him ‘French bugar’.
[UK] Song No. 10 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: With my popps in my pocket and a cutlass in my hand / So I rode up to the Diligence and bid the Bug---s stand.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: bugger. A blackguard, a rascal, a term of reproach. Mill the bloody bugger; beat the damned rascal.
[UK]W. Perry London Guide 66: The bird (pigeon) has flown. The blo—y b—r B—d had taken his place.
[US]A.N. Royall Letters from Alabama 1 Jan. 121: Tell the d----d old b----r to come in.
[Scot]Bugger’s Alphabet in Bold (1979) 42: B is the bugger who wished he was there.
[Aus]Sydney Gaz. and NSW Advertiser 5 Dec. 3/4: The prisoner [...] said [...] ‘Now you b-g-r show us where your swag is’.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 Dec. 3/3: On entering Driscoll's yard [...] he cried out ‘dub up you black b—r’.
[US]M.J. Holmes Tempest and Sunshine 93: Mebby if I’d known all you city buggers was comin’, I’d a kivered my bar feet.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 219/1: You are a B for false swearing / In hell they’ll roast you like a herring.
[US]E.K. Wightman letter 1 Oct. in Longacre From Antietam to Fort Fisher (1985) 48: Ain’t the old bugger lean?
[US]M. Thompson Hoosier Mosaics 38: Her lip am sweet as sugah, / Her eye am bright as wine, / Dat yaller little boogah / Her name am Emiline.
[UK]Randiana 34: The poor devil who floundered up the biggest cunt on record and found another bugger looking for his hat.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) II 386: The bugger went right into your spendings.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 30 Nov. 2/4: [W]ith the intention of letting the blooming thing sink or swim, which ever the b— (term of endearment amongst sailors) liked.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 July 4/7: After searching out each and every one of the candidates’ names he wrote underneath: no use for any of the b—s!
[US]C. M’Govern Sarjint Larry an’ Frinds 56: De dhirty bugger! Oi hope ye’ll catch him an’ cut his heart out.
[US]L.R. Dingus ‘A Word-List From Virginia’ in DN IV:iii 181: bugger, n. [...] 2. Term of endearment to a child.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 553: I’ll wring the neck of any bugger says a word against my fucking king.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Working Bullocks 20: Come up, you lazy boggers!
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 16: The wife can look after ’erself [...] I’m not worryin’ about ’er. Th’ bugger were never any bloody good to me.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 307: Sure, I hate those puritanical buggers back home.
[Aus]H. Drake-Brockman ‘The Price’ in Mann Coast to Coast 55: ‘Spoilt young b’s’, he muttered, but with no rancour to it.
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 79: Arr, that bugger, I ain’t got no time for him. Nasty, sneaking little rat, talkin’ that smooth you could knock his face in.
[Aus]I.L. Idriess One Wet Season 10: I’m Blue Bob th’ b— from Borroloola! Yard me you b—s if you can!
D. Hitchens Sleep with Strangers (1983) [ebook] He’s a clos-mouthed old bugger where money lies.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 24: I hate an unscrupulous bugger.
[SA]A. La Guma Walk in the Night (1968) 53: Listen, Gipsy, what you let the girls mess with these boggers for?
[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 72: ‘Dirty lot of buggers,’ he says.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 129: Put the buggers [...] up against a wall and shoot them.
[UK]A. Burgess 1985 (1980) 165: Some of you poor buggers looks a bit the worse for wear.
M. Keane Time After Time (1984) 42: ‘Play the buggers along.’ ‘The buggers’ was her collective name for her family.
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 18: ‘Bugger’ is the Clayton’s word of the Australian language. It's the word you have when you don't have the right word.
[UK]B. Chatwin Songlines 52: The leading lawman of Tribe C had the unforgettable name of Cheekybugger Tabagee.
[SA]A. Dangor Z Town Trilogy 171: Blerry bogger, suiping in secret!
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] Eddie’s a disloyal little bugger with lots of bad habits, but he wouldn’t actually harm anyone.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 340: Any bugger that tries that Nazi shit with me, I’ll hand him his balls on a platter.
[Aus]T. Winton ‘Big World’ in Turning (2005) 9: Biggie truly is a funny bugger.
A. Steward Getting the Buggers to Learn in FE [title].
[UK]K. Richards Life 27: There were buggers in there, hard men who’d scream at you, ‘Fuck off!’.
[Aus]C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] ‘Don’t know why you buggers keep asking me’.
[US]D. Winslow ‘Paradise’ in Broken 254: ‘Just talking story withn this buggah’.

2. a thing, or creature, with no special connotations.

[UK] ‘The Dog’ in Rambler’s Flash Songster 25: One day he was quite out of luck, he had not even had a bone, / Some boys by his appearance struck, took this poor starving b----r home.
[UK] ‘On Monday’ in Bold (1979) 163: And on Sunday after supper, / I stuffed the bugger up her.
[US] ‘High Chin Bob’ in Lingenfelter et al. Songs of the Amer. West (1968) 361: No man has looped a lion’s head and lived to drag the bugger dead.
‘Wonder What Ruth thinks About’ in Wellington Dly News (KS) 13 Sept. 3/4: [of a baseball] I hear the Slugger’s voice complain / (Ball one) / That bugger’s passing me again.
[Ire]S. Beckett Murphy (1963) 121: I swear I turned the little b--- on.
[Ire](con. 1880–90s) S. O’Casey I Knock at the Door 164: You have to be snappy on accounta if you weren’t quick the buggers ’ud snap a bit outa your fingers.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 186: Bats are sure funny little buggers.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Billy Liar (1962) 89: We’re pulling t’ bugger down.
[UK]A. Wesker Chips with Everything II xi: I don’t much want to do my own buggers, let alone his.
[Aus](con. 1940s–60s) Hogbotel & ffuckes ‘The Ballad of Professor John Glaister’ in Snatches and Lays 84: I chase all the wee wily spermatozoa, / I never let one little bugger escape.
M. Keane Time After Time (1984) 65: [of a dog] Loathe the bugger, actually.
[UK]Flame : a Life on the Game 152: I thought I had haemmorrhoids, but it turned out they were anal warts. They froze the buggers off.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 228: Well, this bugger must’ve gone down twelve feet.
R. O’Neill ‘Ocker’ in The Drover’s Wives (2019) 180: The snake was a big black bugger.

3. (also B) something unpleasant or undesirable, a great nuisance; thus a bugger to; a bugger of a.

[Aus]C.H. Thorp Handful of Ausseys 249: This war’s a b—!
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 148/1: An unpleasant, very difficult or dangerous thing, as in WW1 ‘It’s a bugger making a raid on a wet night’.
[Ire]‘Flann O’Brien’ At Swim-Two-Birds 153: Life is very narrow without glasses and a burnt hand is a bugger.
[UK]J. Campbell Babe is Wise 313: Your chap’s been through a B. of a time while you’ve been sick.
[UK]J. MacLaren-Ross ‘Y List’ in Memoirs of the Forties (1984) 237: Drilling before breakfast’s a bugger, believe me.
[Aus]D. Niland Shiralee 167: It must be what one might say a bugger when a man can’t appreciate poetry.
[Aus]D. Hewett Bobbin Up (1961) 40: I’ve got a bugger of a job tomorrer holdin’ up rivets.
[UK]C. Stead Cotters’ England (1980) 185: It’s a bloody bugger, pet.
[UK](con. 1940s) G. Dutton Andy 40: It’s a beautiful design, bar one thing. They’re buggers to groundloop.
[UK]J. Rosenthal Spend, Spend, Spend Scene 11: If that’s what money does for you, I’ll burn the bugger!
[NZ]G. Johnston Fish Factory 63: Most of the people thought he was a bugger of a joker.
[US]Ian Dury ‘Itinerant Child’ 🎵 The windshield’s cracked, it’s a bugger to drive.
[Scot]I. Welsh Glue 4: It was a tricky bugger: a smart new Formica-topped job which seemed to constantly shift its weight and spill all over the place.

4. (S.Afr.) a dedicatedly masculine male, whose lack of sensitivity is more than compensated for by his enthusiasm for all forms of sport.

Rhodian 84-5 (Rhodes Univ.) n.p.: There are among the stereotypes those poor, confused individuals who have no particular identity, who float between bungy and bugger [DSAE].
N. Dean in Style June 136: The term ‘buggers’ does not refer to sexual practices, but comes from ‘rugger-buggers’. Few play rugby, though (throwing the barmaid’s T-shirt around the room doesn’t count). Buggers puke out of res windows; get off with other people’s girlfriends and wrestle each other to the ground at beerstubes [DSAE].

5. as the bugger of it... a nuisance, an irritation.

[UK](con. 1918) J. Hanley German Prisoner 28: ‘The bugger of it is, my watch has stopped.
[NZ]D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 240: Cooked up a bit of leave. The bugger of it was that the truck that gave me a lift had a breakdown.

6. see booger n.1 (1)

In compounds

bugger chick (n.) [chick n.1 (3)]

(S.Afr.) ‘the compliant girlfriend of an aggressively masculine man’ (DSAE).

N. Dean in Style June 136: Bugger-chicks, [...] Drink Esprit, wear pink takkies, have perfectly tanned belly-buttons and often show a startling generosity in dispensing sexual favours to their men’s friends. Bugger chicks respond most satisfactorily to the ritual Ladies Night cry, ‘A bottle of champagne to the first girl to give me her bra’ [DSAE].
[SA] informant in DSAE.
bugger’s muddle (n.)

a mess.

[UK]Guardian 7 Sept. 🌐 They’ve got themselves in a right bugger’s muddle lately over the vexed endorsement crisis.

In phrases

buggers-on-the-coals (n.)

(Aus./N.Z.) a currant damper.

[Aus]Wellington Times (NSW) 11 Dec. 6/4: I was independent of any baker, and could cook myself a damper, splitter, or bugger, on the coals.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 36: buggers-on-the-coals Currant damper. ANZ mid C19.
play silly buggers (v.) (also play funny buggers, ...silly beggars, ...silly fannies, ...silly fuckers) [var. on bugger about v.; fanny n.1 (6)/fucker n. (3)]

1. to act uncooperatively, to mess around, to cause a deliberate nuisance; occas. as n. without play.

[Can]Toronto Sat. Night (Can.) 18 Sept. 6/1: World, Keller and Mack, the three stars, are clever In their respective lines. They all can turn handsprings and they can dance and play silly-beggar generally].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 30 Aug. 6/6: [I]f Mr. Reid wanted to play silly beggars with the electors of East Sydney, let him do so.
[UK]Liverpool Echo 9 May 12/5: [I] played silly beggars all round the bath side, getting out of the way of the teacher when she tried to grab me for a serious lesson.
[UK]N. Lewis Single Pilgrim 184: ‘[L]et’s stop playing silly buggers and look facts in the face’.
[UK](con. WWII) A. Hackney Private’s Progress 82: I had him put under close arrest. Damned impertinence . Anyone playing silly-buggers round here is liable to be shoved in too.
[Aus](con. WWII) E. Lambert Long White Night 139: Someone’s playing funny buggers out front.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 101: Fat lot of time I’ve got to watch you lot playing silly buggers.
[Aus]J. Hibberd Dimboola (2000) 69: Come on, no funny buggers. Everyone settle down.
[UK]K. Bonfiglioli Don’t Point That Thing at Me (1991) 15: Let’s stop playing silly buggers.
[UK]A. Bleasdale Who’s Been Sleeping in my Bed 103: Don’t play funny buggers with me, brick head.
[Aus]A. Weller Day of the Dog 119: ‘Little Polly got all the answers, unna?’ ‘I’ve got to, with you too busy playin’ silly buggers.’.
[UK]A. Bleasdale ‘Moonlighter’ Boys from the Blackstuff (1985) [TV script] 97: So he wants to play funny buggers, does he.
[UK]A. Payne ‘Senior Citizen Caine’ Minder [TV script] 70: No point in playing silly buggers, McCann. Just hand it over.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 281: In it was a typed note. It read. ‘stp plyng slly bggrs. mt 1500 hts tmrrw. ry42’.
[UK]J. Osborne Déjàvu Act II: Fuck you, you poor, washed-up, bloody inconsiderate maniac. Playing silly buggers with people’s lives.
[Scot]I. Welsh Filth 197: The cunt could just be fucking me around [...] Playing silly fannies again. [Ibid.] 248: Some cunt’s playin silly fuckers here.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 338: Some [people] in search of genuine enlightenment but others to play silly buggers.
[UK]Guardian Weekend 31 July 5: Playing silly buggers with the success rate figures.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 16: I wouldn’t have been trying to play funny buggers with the most powerful [...] union in the state.
[Aus]S. Maloney Something Fishy (2006) 178: I’m not playing funny buggers here, officer.
[UK]M. Heller Two-Faced [ebook] Don't play silly fuckers [...] if I was after you you’d already be on the floor with my foot up your arse’.
[Aus]G. Gilmore Base Nature [ebook] ‘Let’s not play silly buggers about who pays the bills’.
[US]M. Carter Her Wolf to Command [ebook] Roth wanted to play silly fuckers, did he? She could play games too.

2. to indulge in sexual relations, both heterosexual and homosexual.

[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read How to Shoot Friends 41: I never played funny buggers with a chick until I was 18 years old.
[UK]P. Bailey Kitty and Virgil (1999) 41: I hope you’re not thinking [...] I’ve started playing funny buggers in my dotage. Because I haven’t.
right (old) bugger

anything considered unpleasant, excessively challenging etc.

[UK]C. Lee diary 13 Aug. in Eight Bells & Top Masts (2001) 7: Tide was a right bugger getting across the Charlton.
S. Chirazi Spurs List Digest 🌐 We don’t have it right now, and not having AND being unfit too is a right old bugger.
Bernard Bonsai Discworld 25 Aug. 🌐 It’s always the same, no matter how much fun I know I’m going to have, no matter how much sheer delight the final piece will afford me, starting is always a right bugger.
bugger for

1. a phr. denoting an enthusiast, an obsessive, e.g. a bugger for work.

[US] in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) I 158: Old King Cole was a bugger for the hole, / And a bugger for the hole was he.
[UK](con. 1940–50s) Nicholson & Smith Spend, Spend, Spend (1978) 12: My father was a bugger for spending the money from Lloyd George on the beer.

2. someone highly reluctant to do something.

[UK] in R. Graef Living Dangerously 220: I’m a bugger for getting out of bed.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

bugger bandit (n.)

a male homosexual.

[UK]M. Manning Get Your Cock Out 94: Even if Robbie hadn’t have his ginormous beef-bayonet rammed savagely down the little buggerbandit’s throat, he would have probably croaked anyway.
bugger’s grips (n.) [note tailor’s jargon bugger-bafflers, the side vents on a man’s jacket]

(orig. RN) the brushed back ‘wings’ of hair that adorn the temples of many upper class Englishmen. Coarse rumour imputes these as the handholds for those who are positioning such partners ready for anal penetration.

[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus 3 in Viz 98 Oct. 12: face fannies n. Bugger’s grips; sideburns. As sported by ‘Rocket’ Ron Haslam, Sir Rhodes Boyson and the singer out of ‘Supergrass’.
[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz Apr. 48: noddies n. The bikini overflow of an unwaxed lady, from its similarity to the effusive bugger’s grips worn by 70s rock legend Noddy Holder.
[UK]Sun. Times 19 Dec. 5/1: Jones’s silvery bugger grips -an extraordinary set of whiskers.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 154: [A]n evangelical hunchbacked groper with buggers’ grips and award-winning halitosis.